Oleksandr Kovalenko, a Ukrainian military analyst, said Ukrainian troops now needed to reach another village, Staromlynivka, less than 5km away.

“It really serves as a stronghold for the Russian occupiers, the peak of the second defensive line in this location,” he said in an interview with the RBC UA media outlet.

“The process is therefore entirely logical – first, take Staromaiorske, stabilise the flanks, and advance to the second line, where the main striking groups will be engaged to break through,” he said.

Russian troops are heavily entrenched in the strategically important south where they have prepared a sprawling network of trenches, minefields, anti-tank ditches and lines of “dragon’s teeth” barricades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Ukrainian attacks in the south had intensified.

Zelensky has acknowledged progress in the counteroffensive has been slower than desired, but last night touted “very good results” from the front, without providing details.